Singapore Employment Pass Update: Comprehensive Guide to COMPASS

Update as of March 4, 2024: The Ministry of Manpower has raised the qualifying salaries for the Employment Pass (EP) as follows:

  • An increase from $5,000 to $6,000 per month for all sectors except Financial Services, with a progressive increment up to $10,700 for mid-40s applicants.
  • An increase from $5,500 to $6,200 per month for the Financial Services sector, with a cap of $11,800 for mid-40s applicants. These new qualifying salaries will be effective for:
  • New EP applications starting from January 1, 2025
  • Renewal applications starting from January 1, 2026

Singapore has been actively fortifying its economy to solidify its status as a global business hub, particularly for foreign talent. Renowned for its bilingual education system, quality of life, and favourable tax rates, Singapore offers an attractive environment for career advancement. To maintain its position as a global business hub, Singapore has introduced and enhanced various schemes, including the recent Complementarity Assessment Framework, also commonly known as the COMPASS framework.

Introduced on September 1, 2023, for new Employment Pass (EP) applicants, the COMPASS framework aims to distinguish Singapore as a robust labour market with a diverse work environment, attracting managers, executives, technicians, and professionals to live and work in the city-state. Below, we provide comprehensive answers to key questions regarding the framework.

Who does the COMPASS framework apply to?

COMPASS applies to fresh Employment Pass (EP) applicants who plan to relocate to Singapore for work, as of 1 September 2023. The framework involves assessing these applicants based on specific criteria. For new applications and renewals, the following EP qualifying salary requirements are applicable:

  • Minimum SG$5,000 per month for all sectors except financial services (increases progressively with age from 23, reaching SG$10,500 at age 45 and above).
  • Minimum SG$5,500 per month for the financial services sector (increases progressively with age from 23, reaching SG$11,500 at age 45 and above).

Existing EP holders who need to renew their passes will undergo assessment under the COMPASS framework starting from 1 September 2024. Additionally, for all EP applicants, the qualifying salary requirement still applies, which has been increased to SG$5,000 per month and SG$5,500 per month for the financial sector. This requirement is in addition to the COMPASS assessment.

Who is exempted from the COMPASS assessment system?

The COMPASS assessment system exempts three types of candidates:

  1. Applicants earning a minimum of SG$22,500 per month.
  2. Applicants serving in roles on a short-term basis (for a month or less).
  3. Applicants applying as overseas intra-corporate transferees under the World Trade Organisation’s General Agreement on Trade in Services or under an applicable Free Trade Agreement to which Singapore is a party.

How does the scoring system of COMPASS work?

COMPASS Framework in Singapore
Source: Ministry of Manpower
  • Salary (Foundational Criteria – Individual Attributes)
    • The applicant’s salary will be compared to the pool of current employees of the same sector and similar age.
  • Qualifications (Foundational Criteria – Individual Attributes)
    • The applicant’s academic qualifications will be measured on the basis of the world’s top 100 ranking universities, Singaporean universities and highly recognised vocational institutions.
  • Diversity (Foundational Criteria – Firm-related Attributes)
  • Support for Local Employment (Foundational Criteria – Firm-related Attributes)
    • The percentage of local employees will be compared to other companies within the same subsector.
  • Skills Bonus (Bonus Criteria – Individual Attributes)
    • Talents on shortage on the local job market will be reflected here.
  • Strategic Economic Priorities Bonus (Bonus Criteria – Firm-related Attributes)
    • Applications from companies working closely with the Singaporean government in international activities.

Points Needed for Applicant to be eligible for the Employment Pass (EP)

If an applicant earns:

  • 0 points = They stand below expectations.
  • 10 points = They meet expectations.
  • 20 points = They exceed expectations.

Applicants earn additional points if they meet or exceed expectations. An applicant would require a total of 40 points or more to be eligible for the EP:

What are the ways to get bonus points on the COMPASS Scoring System?

In late March 2023, Singapore introduced additional criteria within the COMPASS framework, referred to as Criterion 5 and Criterion 6.

Criterion 5, also termed the skills bonus, is applicable to applicants in occupations requiring highly specialized skills that are currently scarce in the local workforce. Those utilizing the EP application via the Shortage Occupation List (SOL), developed by the Ministry of Manpower and Ministry of Trade & Industry, can receive an extra 20 points under COMPASS. The Ministry of Manpower imposes two additional safeguards under this criterion:

  1. The applicant undergoes further scrutiny, including verification of prior work experience and relevant qualifications or industry accreditation.
  2. Approved applicants are restricted to employment in the specific shortage occupation. If the employer seeks to hire the applicant for a different role, the applicant’s EP eligibility will be reassessed.

Criterion 6, known as the strategic economic priorities bonus, targets companies engaged in ambitious investment, innovation, internationalization, or company and workforce transformation activities, as stated by the Ministry of Manpower’s website. For each EP application submitted by such firms, the company earns an additional 10 COMPASS points. To qualify for this bonus, the firm must:

  • Be supported by sector agencies or the National Trades Union Congress (NTUC).
  • Participate in eligible programs run by agencies listed on the Ministry of Manpower’s website.
  • Demonstrate a commitment to developing the local workforce.

For comprehensive details and information regarding the COMPASS Framework, kindly visit the official website of Singapore’s Ministry of Manpower. https://www.mom.gov.sg/passes-and-permits/employment-pass/eligibility

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Frequently Asked Questions about COMPASS:

  1. What does COMPASS stand for?
    • Complementarity Assessment Framework (COMPASS)
  2. How many points does an applicant need to be eligible for the Employment Pass (EP)?
    • 40 points and above.
  3. How difficult is it to obtain an employment pass in Singapore?
    • It depends on several factors including the applicant’s qualifications, salary, work experience, and more.
  4. How long is the application process for an Employment Pass (EP) in Singapore?
    • If submitted online, the process or update on the application typically takes 10 business days.

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